Earth Science

Where are the largest snow totals

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woman jumping in snow
Don't let a little snow get in the way of winter fun
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Surprising and not so surprising locations with the largest snow totals

The word "snow" can mean different things to different people. Some may dread snow because it means long, cold winters and plenty of snow shoveling. Vehicles are harder to start and road conditions are less than optimal to say the least. To others, especially ski and snowboarding enthusiasts, snow means the fun has just begun. A day on the mountain hitting the slopes is as exhilarating as it is challenging. Yet believe it or not, ski resorts don't always rack up the largest snow totals.

Nationally, the average daily snowfall amount is only about 2 inches, but in some mountainous areas of the West you can see an average of 7 inches a day of snowfall. With averages like these, snow accumulation doesn't sound like much. But averages can be deceiving, because there are always extremes and some places beat the average snowfall rates consistently year after year. 

So where do the largest snow totals exists?   

  • Take for instance Valdez Alaska, where the average annual snowfall is a whopping 326 inches. So just what do you do with all that snow? Helicopter, snowcat skiing and snowboarding opportunities are abundant and range from the intermediate to extreme. Backcountry, telemark and cross country skiing provide more options. Snowmobiling near Valdez offers endless peaks, valleys, and glaciers to explore.

  • Mount Washington, New Hampshire brags an average of 260 inches of snowfall totals a year. It is also the highest peak in the Northeastern United States at 6288 feet and sees extremes in all weather types as well. Mount Washington has the reputation of being "home of the world's worst weather." Severe storms including snow can happen at anytime of the year. Wind gusts have been measured up to 230 mph. Hiking is a very popular activity in summer months around Mount Washingon.

  • Then there is Blue Canyon, California which is just northeast of Sacramento. Blue Canyon sees an average of 240 inches of snow annually. Blue Canyon also receives an additonal 90 inches of rain each year as well. Just a short 46 mile drive and you can also be at Lake Tahoe!

From the east coast to the west coast, these three unique places typically see some of the largest snow totals each year. But here are some other quick, fun facts about snow, that aren't necessarily extremes as the above examples.

  • New York state is home to the snowiest cities in the United States with Syracuse averaging 115 inches of snow per year and Rochester averaging 93 inches annually.

  • In the early 1900s, skiers created their own terminology to describe types of snow, including the terms "fluffy snow," "powder snow," and "sticky snow." Later, the terminology expanded to include descriptive terms such as "champagne powder," "corduroy," and "mashed potatoes."

The largest snow totals can be found nationally from the east coast to the west coast. These snow total extremes can also provide some of the most fun and exciting outdoor winter activities with skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling being some of the more popular. So put on your coat and gloves and enjoy these winter playgrounds.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Assoc.
National Climatic Data Center
Valdez Alaska

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